Sunday, March 18, 2018

Lessons from Writing: 5 Questions to Help Young Writers Find Their Own Process #sol18 week 2

For the month of March, I'm participating in the Slice of Life Challenge on my other blog:  Merely Day by Day.  Writing every day isn't easy, and I'm learning some lessons I want to remember when I sit beside young writers.  Thanks to the team at Two Writing Teachers for pushing me to be a teacher who writes, and helping to grow my reflections.

These lines caught my attention as I visited Mandy Robek's post, Fumbling, on day 2 of the Slice of Life Challenge:
"I think I've learned the benefits of using my notebook during the day, along the way.  It's a spot to hold my thoughts until I can embrace them with intention."                                  - Mandy Robek, Enjoy and Embrace Writing
As I read posts from other writers during the Slice of Life Challenge, it isn't uncommon to see a participant write about the challenges they are facing.  There are the days the idea bucket is empty.  There are days our writing goes out into the world without the polish we would like it to have.  There are days when the voice of the writing doesn't feel quite right or the craft doesn't seem to take the message to the place we'd like it to go.

It isn't uncommon to hear someone write about their process.  Participants in the event talk about where they get their ideas, crafting techniques they've discovered, new types of writing they're trying, or the way they're playing with words.  It's not uncommon to read posts about participants' favorite writing spaces, times, or tools.

This is my seventh year participating in the challenge to write 31 days, but this might be the first year I have felt I've found a rhythm to this writing.  This year, I've decided to write my posts the day before I post them.  I get up at about 5:30 in the morning, reread the post I started the previous day, complete some quick revisions, and then post it for the day.  I then spend some time drafting the post for the following day.  This habitual rhythm has certainly helped me to feel less overwhelmed by the requirements of writing every day.

Mandy talks about using her notebook to collect ideas during the day.  She finds this helpful in her writing.  I, too, love a notebook, but I find that I never have it with me.  This year, when an idea strikes, I either go into Blogger and start the post with a quick five-minute write or I open voice recorder to record my idea at the moment it hits.  Most often, ideas come in the day when I don't have time to write so voice recorder has really come in handy.

As I interact within the writing communities I belong, I've learned that everyone has their process.  I love to listen to people share their process as it often helps me to reflect and to be more intentional in my own way of writing.

Helping Young Writers Find Their Process
As I listen to adult writers talk about their work, I can't help but think about the young writers we are shaping.  Do we allow students the opportunities to find their own their process or do we assign the process?  Do we allow students to find their writing territories or do we tell them what they will write about?  Do we acknowledge that the writing can be hard or do we expect perfection in every piece?  Do we allow students to find the structure and craft of each piece of writing or do we give them formulas for completion?

Here are some questions for helping young writers find their process and rhythm as writers:

  1. Where do writers find their ideas?  This is a little different than what do writers write about.  This talks about memories, books, conversations, daily events, and maybe some good eavesdropping.  
  2. How do you collect your ideas?  Often we're in the middle of a piece of writing when we get an idea for another piece of writing.  How do we capture those ideas before they are gone?  Writers do this in a variety of ways, especially now that we have digital possibilities.  Of course, the notebook is still a favorite for writers.  Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has a site called Sharing Our Notebooks that is full of possibility to share with students.  
  3. How do you grow your ideas?  This is a topic often shaped by opportunities and challenges.  Some people sketch, some web, some research, some list.  These possibilities are often driven by purpose.  Additionally, when do you revise?  Some writers revise as they work; others work to get the idea onto paper and then return for revision.  How do you strengthen your lines and words?  
  4. Where do you like to write?  During a school day, young writers have very little say in where they write, but that doesn't mean they can't make some decisions about their spaces.  Providing alternate seating, allowing writers to write on the floor, creating quiet spaces, and maybe even just pulling out a picture and a favorite pen can help to create an atmosphere for writing.  Additionally, digital spaces may allow writers to carry their reading beyond the school day and write in their favorite spaces at home.  
  5. How will you use your time as a writer?  In classrooms, having a regular daily time to write is essential.  If young writers know they will have time to write each day, they can begin to collect ideas.  Writing every day is essential, but isn't always easy.  Allowing writers to be in different stages of the process, knowing the process is not linear, and understanding that writers may take a short break from a piece to grow a burning idea all provide flexibility for the writer. 
Young writers need the opportunity to find their own process.  If we truly want our writers to write with purpose, to develop their voice, to utilize craft, to move their audience, we have to let them write.  

Lessons From Writing Series

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